March 27, 2015

Chop Gear: Considering the fairness of Jeremy Clarkson’s dismissal

Gear stick image

This has sparked public debate about if it is appropriate to avoid carrying out a disciplinary process for figures in the public eye; not to mention those in senior positions who add significant value to the business.

On 25 March, the BBC announced its decision not to renew Clarkson’s contract, which was due to expire at the end of March. Responding to the news, Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed that "aggressive and abusive behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace". So, the question for employers is how can you dismiss someone like Clarkson, who is found guilty of misconduct, fairly?

The answer: good management practices will help to avoid potential dismissal claims (like unfair dismissal and breach of contract) in these circumstances:

  1. Don’t assume that an employee can be dismissed simply because their fixed-term contract has come to an end. A fair reason and a fair procedure is still needed where an employee has more than two years’ service.
  2. Suspend the employee on full pay. This will give you time to fully investigate the allegations.
  3. Give the employee sufficient information about the reasons for their possible dismissal, time to consider that information, and the opportunity to respond at a disciplinary hearing before reaching a final decision.
  4. Offer the right of appeal.
  5. Give the employee the right to be accompanied to the disciplinary and appeal hearings.
  6. Consider your disciplinary policy and the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
  7. Even if there is a potentially fair reason for the dismissal and you have followed a fair procedure, ensure you act reasonably in all the circumstances.
  8. Where the sanction is dismissal, make sure the employee is paid in accordance with their employment contract. Note an employee dismissed for gross misconduct has no right to notice pay.
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